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Iranian Film Festival- San Francisco 9/19-20

15 Sep 2009 23:34No Comments

When Saeed Shafa began making plans for the inaugural Tiburon International Film Festival, it was with the simple motto of encouraging local residents to "understand the world through film." It was the June of 2001 and he had set the festival to coincide with the Persian New Year, which takes place each year on the first day of spring.

After the terrorists attacks of September 11 happened many in the local community urged him to delay the festival, but Shafa was not to be deterred -- the showcasing of global films and perspectives was now more important than ever. In fact, in his mind, then more than ever, the show must go on.

Shafa, born in Mashhad, Iran, was not new to film. He had studied filmmaking in San Francisco in the 1970's and had become one of the most prominent film critics in the Iranian American press, reviewing hundreds of films over several decades.

For that reason, perhaps, an exceptionally high number of Iranian film submissions always seemed to make their way to Shafa's mailbox. Still, he remained committed to presenting films from around the world, and because of it the annual Tiburon International Film Festival has garnered a great deal of respect, as a venue for filmmakers to premiere their work.

Last year Shafa decided to design a program of films specifically by or about Iranians, the San Francisco Iranian Film Festival, and the event is set to hold its second weekend long program on September 19-20.

Often a step ahead of the pack, even before the post election unrest in Iran, Shafa chose "Iranian Women" as the focus of this year's festival. Over the past few months Iranians -- and Iranian women in particular -- have begun to be seen by Westerners in a new light. No longer are they simply looked at as Islamic fanatics who keep their women locked up.

Shafa believes that Iranian women deserve a special respect. "I thought with the role the Iranian women play in Iran and elsewhere, they deserve to be recognized and appreciated. The Iranian women have kept families together during every historic and crucial times. They have been the front runners at every event," he noted recently, adding that, "more of them are studying at the universities in Iran than their male counterparts. They are unique in every aspect all over the world."

Among the twenty-four films being presented this year is one entitled Letters from America by Nezam Manoucheri, who is presenting a film at the festival for a second consecutive year.

Manouchehri, who lived in San Francisco for many years before returning to Iran in the late 1980's, was an early supporter of the event, and pointed out that "this festival is important because it's the first of its kind attracting a sophisticated, bi-cultural audience."

Regarding the audiences he added, "A World Between was a big hit last year and the audience got every cue and laughed throughout. This year it seems to have even more scope and a theme and I'm looking forward to it."

San Francisco has been a hotbed of activism regarding Iran since the June election. On the Global Unity for Iran rally, which was the idea of a Bay Area Iranian, some 20,000 showed up to show their support for demonstrators in Iran. In all likelihood, many Americans who would never have attended such a festival before, will arrive en masse this year given the events in Iran over the past few months.

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